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Recently, I watched Tom Scott’s YouTube video “The Never-Used Road Where The BBC Crash Cars”, where he talks about a road constructed by a local council in the UK, that was meant to connect to various other road segments, but was never finished. Now it’s used largely by the BBC to film various TV shows and movies.
This story is not extraordinary. Companies, clients, as well as people abandon projects all the time. Clients abandon projects, even after they have invested time and money in them.
We abandon projects, even if we have invested considerable energy in them. There are a bunch of reasons why projects get abandoned. In the case of the road, the funds ran out and then no one pick that project back up. But other times, it just feels hard to continue a project. We encounter a hurdle that is difficult to solve. It takes too long to accomplish and we get bored with it. Sometimes, it’s not a question of the resources, it’s just hard to complete the project. Why is that?
Done is better than perfect
I struggle with completing personal projects sometimes. Mainly because I am the only driver behind the project. In my blog post How to Create Accountability, I talk about how you can create pillars of accountability for yourself to stay motivated and get projects done. Sometimes, it’s hard to create those pillars for yourself though. If I don’t have a collaboration partner, I don’t have another person but myself to be accountable for.
If the project isn’t a client project, I don’t have the pressure of a deadline or the commision to work towards. Sure, I set my own deadlines for personal projects, but we all know how easily it is to convince yourself to do or not to do something…
My current project, the Grad Cap sticker pack, has recently reached such a lull. I have illustrated 15 expressions. They could potentially be submitted as messenger stickers as they are or be animated first. I could even expand the set to cover more emoji expressions. But I am stuck. I am in analysis paralysis. I am not 100% happy with the design. It’s not quite there yet. If I upload them now, are they expressive enough for the emotions to come across? Is the gray tritone colour palette too bland? If I expand the set, should I adapt the design first? If I go ahead and animate them, can I adapt the design later?
At this stage of constant questioning of the project and my abilities, I keep coming back to a quote by Tom Ross “Done is better than perfect”. It is better to be finished and sent out into the world, than be forgotten in the depths of my terra bytes due to perfectionism. I need to move fast and make a decision, because it will get harder to move forward and easier to drop it. Every time I look back on my graveyard of ideas, I get a little sad. I suppose one naturally would, at any graveyard. But as time passes, those “on hold” projects in the attic, lose that label and get stuffed away, until it’s time to bury them.
So, I just did it. I published the sticker pack on all the most popular platforms like WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal and Telegram. They are a bit tricky to find on most apps, unless used in a chat conversation. You can add them via this link to your Telegram and this link on Signal though!
Jakes Parker, Will Terry and Lee White talk about shipping as being the main difference, alongside art, between professionals and amateurs. The 3 point perspective podcast is an illustration podcast and the hosts are children’s book and comic illustrators. Shipping refers to the act of shipping books out to their audiences. Their analogy revolves around not only finishing projects but also sharing them publicly. This is their way of creating accountability to complete a project. As with Tom Ross’ quote, completion ranks higher than perfection. It’s considered better to finish projects than continuously start new ones.
Which is why it’s so important to go through the life cycle of a project. Projects are not just playgrounds of realising your idea. They are also battle grounds of fighting through creative block. They are puzzles for resolving problems and classrooms for learning. Every event in your life, if professional, romantic or personal will have a honeymoon phase. But as we all know, the honeymoon phase doesn’t last. The delirium wears off and we are faced with real life, where real issues need to be tackled. It’s understandable that we want to only live in the honeymoon phase, where everything is exciting and nothing is hard, but that’s not how we grow. With these words, I don’t want to motivate just you to get things done, but also push myself to be better at finishing projects. I need to see them completed, so I can look back at them, evaluate them and improve on them rather than be perpetually stuck with them. Ideally I want to create more than one sticker packs, so here’s to finishing this one and creating many more.
Yes, it is hard to complete a project. It’s hard, because we have to overcome our lazy selves, because we have to work through uncomfortable feelings of inadequacy and solve problems. But it is also important. For ourselves, for our growth and to actually become good at something.
Don’t get stuck, get moving!